Explore the short-lived event, known as a protoplanetary nebula, around IRAS 20068+4051. What shapes and stories can you tell about this image? Leave a comment below.
The wings spreading from this star are just the first gasps of a dying star. When a star with a size similar to our Sun burns through all of its hydrogen fuel, the star begins to shed its outer layers and puffs them out into space as giant bubbles. High velocity interstellar winds push and mold the gas and dust released by the star. Radiation from the now dead stars white, hot core, called a white dwarf, heats the expanding shells of gas causing the material to glow. Eventually, the nebula will fade as the material cools and expands into space. The white dwarf will cool and fade slowly from view over the next several billion years. Our Sun will meet a similar fate but not for another five billion years or so.
Protoplanetary nebula, or a pre-planetary nebula, give astronomers a glimpse at the beginnings of the dying process. While astronomers call them planetary nebulae, they have nothing to do with planets. Planet hunters in the 17th and 18th centuries cataloged many objects that had an orb-like appearance in telescopes; much like a planet. IRAS 20068+4051 is located toward the constellation Cygnus, the Swan.